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A note from T J Logan

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Chapter 8 Old Bunking Buddies


Axel coughed himself awake; there was a strange odour filling the room. It was smoke. Axel jumped off the piss stained matress in a hurry.

“Not to worry, not to worry, everything is under control,” Jason comforted, wafting a small piece of cardboard next to a raging fire.

“What the fuck!” Axel shouted.

It was like a scene out of breaking bad. There were beakers, magnifying glasses, test tubes and bunsen burners, all laid out on a table at the back of the warehouse. There was a fire at one end, and Jason was barely clothed.

The mad alchemist stopped fanning, and started sifting through an array of liquids in test tubes. He started throwing them all together into one, and then chucked it on the fire. The fire turned blue, then was all sucked back into the beaker that it came out of.

“Jason,” Axel said, his breath erratic. “Please, don’t set fire to the warehouse.”

“Yes, dad. It’s not like I meant to set fire to anything.”

Axel eyed a canned cylinder in the back of the warehouse, it was clearly marked as flammable. He just sighed his annoyance; he had only just met his new, crazy roommate NPC.

Axel felt light headed, and sat down on the mattress to gather his thoughts. He had three days left, and he needed to spend that time wisely. Firstly, he inputted Jasmine’s username to add her as a friend. He then texted her his location.

 

{You need to log out. Your vital signs are showing extreme hunger}

 

“Oh, yeah, real life.”

“Tell me about it,” added Jason.

Axel sighed his annoyance. He went to his menu and clicked the log out button.

Back in real life, Jason took off the VR headset, and looked around his bare room. He was still on the cold wooden floor, but there was a nice blanket placed over him. He smiled; his mother always looked after him.

His stomach grumbled. It felt like it was eating itself. But his back felt amazing. All the countless hours of him hunched over a desk felt had gone. He got up and put on some clothes. It was still freezing in the house since they couldn’t afford heating, but Axel was more than used to it.

He headed downstairs and found his mother snuggled onto the sofa sleeping. He kissed her on the forehead, and then went into the kitchen to find some food. The only food him and his mother ate were out of date cans. They could go shopping every six months with how much they always brought home.

He knew he needed to eat a lot before going back into the game. He could sleep there, but he couldn’t eat of course. He grabbed three cans of pineapple chunks, two spams containers and canned bread. When he was younger, he never believed bread could be canned.

He tore the top off all of them and hastily dug in; he wanted to get back in the game as soon as possible. It was a new day for him. He was feeling good, better than he had ever done before. Nothing felt hopeless anymore, and things were beginning to look up. He slurped all of the food down.

With his stomach cramping, he threw them all into the recycling, and bounded straight back up stairs. He didn’t lie down on the floor this time, but laid in bed instead. He threw the other blanket on top of him, and slid it on.

Axel flashed back into the game. He checked to his right, seeing Jason in only an apron.

The man turned around with a plate of suspicious looking food in his hand. “Hunny, your breakfast is ready.”

“I’m not eating that shit,” Axel spat.

“But-but, I cooked it, for you.”

Axel eventually conceded. He didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot with Jason. “Yeah, sure. What is it?”

“Have a little examination of it.”

Axel did so.

[The Pick Me Up] Steel Bison Stew


Description: a stew made from steel bison. It has been enhanced by a powerful alchemist with unknown ingredients.


Tier: Rare

Effects: +5% to all physical stats, +5% experience gain, +5% increased mana regeneration

Duration: 6 hours

Side effects: wiggling of ones toes

“Shit, this is a amazing,” he said, genuinely.

“Can’t get rid of the wiggle ones toes side effect. It’s been a real pain in the arse.”

Axel was stunned. It was named; named items were incredibly rare. Though, the name ‘The Pick Me Up’ was slang for cocaine; it was close to the drug, only Axel would sweat less. The stats, duration- the wiggle ones toes side effect was irrelevant really, and it was rare to top it all off.

“You could start a business with this,” Axel declared, looking at it. It did look disgusting, but smelled amazing.

“If it has a side effect. You need to get it legally approved from the government. If they see that I live in Bandit’s Hideaway they won’t let me sell it.”

“So just sell it here? I heard the guards don’t come to Bandit's Hideaway.”

“It is a shit hole,” Jason said.

“Agreed. We could maybe try and get people to come here,” offered Axel.

“Do I look like marketing expert?”

“Well, I am,” Axel stated. “Kinda. I know how business works, even the illegal kind.”

Jason was about to speak, but was interrupted by a knock on the metal warehouse door. Jason ran over to his table and picked up a few vials, ready to throw at a moments notice.

“Easy Jason, put them down. It’s a friend.”

“Traveller friends?”

“Don’t fucking start that again.” Axel headed over to the door and opened it. There he saw Jasmine. She was panting, with sweat dripping down her face.

“I’m here. I’m here. I’m here.” She put both hands on her knees as she caught her breath.

“Did you run?” Axel questioned.

She held up a finger as she caught her breath. “A light jog. Why are you in this dump?”

“What were you expecting?” Axel asked.

“Like a bat cave or something. Maybe, a tall tower on a cliff with a stormy sea in the background.”

“That’s pretty stereotypical. I’m not your average villain, Jasmine . . . Come in, meet my ro-”

“Hi, I’m Jason,” Jason introduced, already next to Axel. He was still wearing just the apron.

“Clothes Jason, clothes,” Axel told him.

“I work better when I’m naked. This is the best you’ll get out of me.”

“You live with an NPC?” Jasmine questioned, staring at Axel.

“Long story,” Axel spluttered.

“I may be mentally handicapped, a drunk, a foolish moron, but I’m his roommate. We’re already good friends.”

Axel sighed as he rubbed his temples. He stepped aside to let her in.

“Nice place,” she said, sarcastically. “Where’s all the henchman?”

“For the last time, Jasmine, I’m not playing a fucking batman villain.”

“Sure,” she dismissed. She was really betting on a secret hideout in the mountains or something of the like. But a run down warehouse will do for her.

“Jason, would you mind making Jasmine one of your dishes?”

“I’ll get on it,” replied Jason, hurrying over to his workstation, his bare cheeks on display to the world.

Axel thought Jasmine would at least look, but she didn’t. “So, have you got the items?”

“Yup, here,” Jasmine said, opening a trade window.

Axel rubbed his chin in amusement. There were some good items here; roughly 40 of them. “Nice job,” he praised. However, he cancelled out of the trade window. “I have a job for you.”

A smile grew wide on her face. “What is it? Steal the crown jewels. Murder a vigilante?”

“Uh no, sell these items to a man called Barb. He’s over at the central area of Bandit’s Hideaway.”

“Oh,” she muttered in defeat. “Then can we do some villainy stuff?”

“Maybe,” Axel wondered.

Just as Jasmine was about to leave, there was another knock on the door. Now, Axel was cautious.

“Another traveller friend?” Jason questioned, shouting from one end to the other.

“No,” Axel worriedly said, slowly getting up. He drew his starter sword from his inventory, and approached the door. Jasmine was close behind him, thrilled to be in on the action.

“Who is it?” Axel asked, ear pressed to the door.

“A stranger,” an American voice said.

“Jack?” he questioned, opening the door.

“So, it was you all along.”

Axel froze. He didn’t know what to do. “Jack-”

Jack brought him into a hug. He pulled out of it and said, “You look like shit.”

Axel could only smile. “How did you find me?”

“You remember that maze in Medusa’s Temple a while back?”

“Ohh shit, yeah.” They had bought a special item back in Omegus. It worked across all games owned by the company. It always allowed them to see each other on the map. “Fuck, it’s good to see you. Come in, man.”

“I can’t believe it’s been four years. You been sticking needles in your arm?” Jack questioned, concerned for his friend.

“No. You know I’d never do that shit . . . I think it’s time I owe you an explanation.”

“I’d prefer an apology, but you do,” complained Jack. “And why are you a goblin?”

“Why are you an orc?” Axel fired back. “You fucking hate monster races.”

Jack grinned. “Times change.”

The American man was playing a half-orc. He was tall in real life, but the race added on an extra few inches along with some muscles. He had grey skin, a rough brown combover and squinted eyes. He was smart; on the same wavelength as Axel. He was wearing thick, grey leather armour, which he had already received from killing a mini boss a dozen times. He was a heavy grinder like Axel was back in the day.

Axel started moving around crates so they could sit at a make-shift table.

“Where you been then?” he asked Axel, sitting down.

“My uh-” he swallowed a stone. “My family got into debt. It’s quite a lot. My dad fucked us over.”

Jasmine and Jason were both eavesdropping in on the conversation. They were also getting to know each other.

“Shit man, I could have helped you a bit,” he offered. “You know I could float you a few thousand dollars.”

“I know you could have. Just at the time, I was too embarrassed.” It felt good now that he had said it. “Plus, it’s about a 1.5 million.”

Jack choked a little. “Shit, man. I know you sold everything, but all that still didn’t pay it off?”

Axel shook his head in defeat. “I just broke everyone off after that. The guild, you- everything.” Axel felt like bursting into tears, but he knew that Jack would never let that go.

“Your dad’s a real prick,” Jack added, offering a smile to him.

“Yeah . . . Anyway, I quit my job and now I’m here. In a corpse snatchers hideout with a naked alchemist in the middle of the slums.”

“I’m here too!” Jasmine chimed from the back of the warehouse.

Jacked leaned in close and whispered, “Is she your girlfriend?”

Axel shook his head. “Fuck. No,” he whispered back. “She’s going to be helpful though.”

“Helpful for what?”

“I need to make 60 grand in three days. I already have about 120 gold. If not, my mum’s legs get broken.”

“Can’t you call the police?”

“No. You think I already tried that? It’s a legal loophole, introduced a few years back.”

“I’m in,” Jack said instantly, and without hesitation. “Whatever you need.”

“Really? You want to join my criminal organisation?”

“Fuck yeah I do,” Jack responded, nodding his head. “I have played good guys, after good guys, after good guys. I wanna fuck shit up. Playing the villain sounds awesome.”

“I’m not playing the villain,” Axel spat. “I have to act like one.”

“That’s still playing the villain, Axel. Like it or not.”

“Well, then I am playing the villain . . . Why the half-orc?”

“There were rumours going around it increased the penis size. I thought that if I already have 10 inches, two more wouldn’t hurt.”

Axel couldn’t help but chuckle. “You’re a lying bastard.”

“We,” Jack corrected. “So, loot goblin?”

“Increases my income. It’s the main part of my grand plan.”

“You look like a bruised ballsack,” Jack noted. “Did your race get the ugly debuff?”

Axel sighed. “Yeah. I’m also fatigued in sunlight like a fucking hermit.”

Jack smiled at him. “It’s been too long, man. For a moment, I really thought you’d sold your account.”

“Nah, I’d never do that.”

“Oh, and there’s tonnes of rumours going around that the Hoarder is playing again.”

“It was bound to come out sooner or later.”

“Fuck yeah it is, you’re The Legendary Hoarder. There’s no item you can’t acquire. Pockets so deep it would make a-”

“Fat lady sink. I haven’t heard that in ages,” Axel mused, rekindling some memories.

Jasmine came bounding over a few seconds later, followed by Jason with three more plates of food in his hand.

“You gonna introduce me?” Jack asked.

“Yeah. Jasmine, this is Jack, my best mate. Jasmine’s a pretty good thief. She stole five starter weapons before she got to the city. This is Jason, my new bunkie. He’s a great alchemist.”

“Why is he naked?” Jack asked.

“It helps with my work,” Jason replied, extending his hand out for a shake.

“I wouldn’t shake his hand,” Axel added.

“Fist bump?” Jack offered.

“Fist. Bump?”

“Nevermind. Well, it’s nice to meet you all anyway. Me and Ax-”

“Hoarder,” Axel interrupted.

Jasmine rolled her eyes. “We literally heard the whole conversation, Axel. Nice name by the way.”

“Yeah, thanks. I hope we can all get along. We have a lot to do in the next few days.”

“Are we starting a gang?” Jason asked, getting excited.

“No. An organisation.”

“Criminal,” Jack corrected with a smile on his face.

“Even better!” Jason exclaimed. “I’m in. What’s my cut?”

“Once I’ve gotten to 8000 gold, we can split the profits. I know you heard, but I really need the money.”

“I’m fine with that,” Jasmine said. She really wasn’t in it for the money. It appeared Jack wasn't either. However, Jason had other ideas.

“Hmm . . . How about, you can supply me with constant ingredients after we’ve gotten your debt problem sorted out. You know, you just could kill them. I know a few people who could do it.”

“It doesn’t work like that,” Axel dismissed. “And yes, that’s a deal. It’ll be a gold a week.”

“Two,” Jason bartered.

“Fine, two it is,” Axel agreed with a hidden smile on his face; two gold was nothing.

Jack clapped his hands together. “So what’s the plan?”

Axel cleared his throat as he put the plan to speech. “It’s to do with the collection tab. You get coin back from the bonus once you have the full set. With my race, I get a bonus from every designated gold source. I also just got a skill which can increase that rate by a half. Theoretically, if I acquire dozens and dozens of full sets, then I could make 2-10 gold per set. There’s thousands there.”

“It would take us years to collect them all, unless-”

“You can buy them,” Axel finished. “It seems so fucking stupid, and I don’t know how it wasn’t cut out from the final code. But the next patch is planned in a few weeks so we’re good.”

“So you need a large investment to buy the items?” Jasmine asked.

Axel nodded. “We’re going to need to work together. I already have plans for you all to make some money. Jason, I want you to start selling your potions in the market at the front of the gate- don’t worry, I have the guards there under my thumb - sorta. Jasmine, I want you to start a thieving ring. Target the very wealthy areas of Tresluna; focus on the players more than the NPCs. Jack, I need you to make a full detailed itinerary of each set I need and how much it will give me.”

Jack nodded.

“Why sell my potions?” Jason asked. “And why there?”

“I want to encourage players and NPCs to come to the slums more. In here, you can sell more potions without the eye of the guards. If you bring a batch- say 30 of your best potions for cheap, then say to the players you can find more of them in the slums, they’ll start coming here. We want everything to be on our own turf; makes things easier in the long run. This also ties in with Jasmine. There’s a bunch of kids doing fuck all around here. Train them up and take them to the wealthy markets. If they keep getting their shit stolen, they’re gonna come to an area where they’re not; the slums. The only real problem we have, is that the slums have a bad name. That’s the most difficult problem we have.”

“We could re-name it?” Jack asked. “Bandit’s Hideaway is a shit name. Plus, everyone calls it the slums.”

Axel grinded his teeth. Jack was right. “We’ll have to make do. We can try to make it look edgy or some shit like that. Word of mouth is hard to change.”

“Where should I sell all the items?” Jasmine asked.

“There’s a guy called Barb in the central area of the slums. Tall, lanky guy; you’ll notice him, he sticks out. Tell him Hoarder sent you, and he won’t give you a shit price. Jason, I just had an idea. You can create interesting potions, right?”

Jason nodded.

“Well, we could put on a show for all of the new pla-travellers when they come into the city. People love eye candy, so make the craziest potions and you can test them all on me. Of course, that’s on top of all the other handy potions you’re making.”

“You just want me to make an itinerary?” Jack asked.

“No. Jack, I know you’re smart for fuck sake. You’re good at maths, and I need you to create a projection too. We’re also going to run into trouble at some point, so a good fighter is necessary.”

“I am level 10 so other players shouldn’t really be an issue.”

“Right. I’m level 11 by the way. I’ve already tested the collectible bonus, and it gives a fuck tonne of experience.”

“What’s your estimate for how much money we need?” Jack asked.

Axel had struggled to think of that. Armour sets were going to cost a fair bit. “I’d say, 2000-4000 gold. It could be more, or could be less. That all depends on the trade terminal prices. I think they’re going to go up as the rumour has just started to spread. I have a skill that bypasses tax trade, but of course, it only works when selling. So I can also get more money back at the end after. Once I’ve reached 8000 gold, I’ll split it 50/50 between you too.”

“Oh, it’s alright, I don’t want gold,” Jasmine explained.

“I’d like to do the collectible exploit,” Jack added. “If it’s as good as you say, then we could easily get up to level 30 even.”

“Could I do that too then, maybe?” Jasmine asked.

Axel nodded. “So, what do you think?”

“It’s ballsy,” Jack inputted, “but doable.”

“I’m terrible with coin,” Jason stated. “I think I’ll need help with prices.”

“Of course,” Axel comforted. “I’m here. I will be helping with everyone. Have a problem, come see me . . . I also need to get a grip around the guards truly. As soon as I own them, it’ll be set in stone.”

Jack had been thinking about the projection. He brought up the collectible menu and started browsing through. “Holy shit, Axel, you’re right. This is broken. How the fuck did they put this through?”

Axel shrugged. “Someone’s getting fired,” he said with a smirk.

“I’ll need coin to buy ingredients. If you want the cool shit, they’ll be expensive.”

“How much?” Axel asked.

“10 gold,” Jason replied. “I don’t know actually.”

“Well, take 10 gold anyway,” Axel said, fishing it out of his wallet. “Do not fuck me over Jason. Our deal is set in stone, got it?”

“Yes, boss,” Jason stated with a grin. “I’ll be honest, a lot of big names have come and gone in Bandit’s Hideaway, but you’re a guy that seems to know what he’s doing.”

“Thanks.” Axel was genuinely happy with that compliment. “Nothing ever goes to plan, so we will have to think on our feet.”

“How much is your coin increase?” Jack asked.

“1.21 as of right now; I can increase it with points. The skill I have is on a cooldown of a week, so I’ll only get to use it once. It increases that 1.21 by 1.5, so a bit over 1.8 in total.”

Jack nodded his head slowly as he thought. “It might be best to do a few to get that attribute up. I’ll have to do some calculations.”

“I trust you.” He then turned to Jasmine and said, “I’ll actually come with you to see Barb. I might need him to help with the whole rejuvenation of the slums. He owes me a favour.”

Jasmine nodded her head enthusiastically.

“I know you two can message me directly, so never hesitate to do so. Jason, you’ll just have to find me either here or somewhere else. Oh, and are you good at being a presenter?”

“I am quite dramatic,” commented Jason. “Depends what it is?”

“Well, we need to put on a show. Tell them they can find you at Bandit’s Hideaway. I’ll see if Barb can make a stall for you so you can make them, and also sell them there. It’ll be easier that way.”

“Sure,” Jason said.

Axel took in a deep breath. “I’m sorry, I am stressing a little. I just need all this to work.”

“Hey man, we’ll do our best,” Jack said, placing a hand on his shoulder.

He looked at each member of the team he had put together, meeting everyone of their eyes. He was hopeful. "What the fuck are you all doing here still, get to work . . . But eat the food first, it gives you a buff.”

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T J Logan

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